Australia bowlers Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon have called for an end to "rumour mongering and innuendo" around the 2018 ball-tampering scandal.

Then-captain Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft were banned by Cricket Australia after all three were implicated in a plot to alter the condition of the ball with sandpaper during a 322-run defeat to South Africa at Newlands in March 2018.

Bancroft, who was caught on camera rubbing what was initially thought to be yellow sticky tape on the ball, was punished along with Smith and Warner, the latter as vice-captain also part of Australia's "leadership group".

Head coach Darren Lehman was cleared of any wrong-doing at the time and later stepped down, while the bowling attack of Starc, Hazlewood, Cummins and Lyon were also said to be in the dark.

In an interview with The Guardian last weekend, Bancroft was asked whether the bowlers knew what was going on and replied: "Uh … yeah, look, I think, yeah, I think it's pretty probably self-explanatory."

Cricket Australia invited Bancroft to come forward with any further information after it conducted a full investigation at the time.

In a joint statement published on Starc's website, the Australian bowlers stridently denied any wrongdoing and said it was "time to move on".

"We pride ourselves on our honesty. So it’s been disappointing to see that our integrity has been questioned by some journalists and past players in recent days in regard to the Cape Town Test of 2018," the statement read.

"We have already answered questions many times on this issue, but we feel compelled to put the key facts on the record again.

"We did not know a foreign substance was taken onto the field to alter the condition of the ball until we saw the images on the big screen at Newlands."

Umpires Nigel Long and Richard Illingworth inspected the condition of the ball after Bancroft appeared to tamper with it and did not find enough damage to change it – something Starc, Hazlewood, Cummins and Lyon chose to highlight.

The statement added: "None of this excuses what happened on the field that day at Newlands. It was wrong and it should never have happened.

"We've all learned valuable lessons and we'd like to think the public can see a change for the better in terms of the way we play, the way we behave and respect the game. Our commitment to improving as people and players will continue.

"We respectfully request an end to the rumour-mongering and innuendo. It has gone on too long and it is time to move on."

Australia off-spinner Nathan Lyon mocked England's team selection for their third Test hammering by India – declaring the spectacle on a sharply turning pitch in Ahmedabad to be "absolutely brilliant".

The tourists recalled James Anderson and Jofra Archer to feature alongside Stuart Broad and all-rounder Ben Stokes, in anticipation of conditions in the day/night Test being favourable to seamers.

However, a volatile surface offered assistance to spinners from the very start, with England bundled out for 112 and 81 as they lost by 10 wickets.

India only managed 145 in their first innings and England skipper Joe Root claimed career-best figures of 5-8 with his part time off-spin.

Despite being a far more respected practitioner of that particular craft, Lyon insisted he had no qualms over a surface that drew criticism from former England captains Michael Vaughan, Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook.

"The best thing about this Test match that just passed is that England went in with four seamers," Lyon said, as quoted by cricket.com.au.

"That will do me. I don't need to say any more.

"I was up all night watching it. It was absolutely brilliant. I'm thinking about bringing that curator out to the SCG."

Lyon made a pointed reference to Australia's humiliating dismissals for 47 and 60 against South Africa and England in 2012 and 2015 respectively, when conditions favoured seam bowling.

"We play on seaming wickets around the world and get bowled out for 47, 60. Nobody ever says a thing [about the pitch]," he said.

"But as soon as it starts spinning, everyone in the world seems to start crying about it. I don't get it. I'm all for it, it was entertaining."

Despite Lyon's enjoyment of the latest match in the four-Test series, the result harmed Australia's prospects of reaching this year's World Test Championship final.

Only an England win in the final game can edge Tim Paine's side into the inaugural one-off showpiece against New Zealand at India's expense.

That would leave Australia out of action in the longest format until the start of their domestic season at the end of this year – an unhelpfully long time for speculation over ructions between coach Justin Langer and members of his team to fester.

"Me personally, if I had a problem with JL I'd go straight to him," Lyon added, casting doubt upon the rumours that emerged in the aftermath of Australia's humbling 2-1 home loss to an injury-ravaged India.

"But I don't have a problem with him. I don't understand where it's all coming from.

"I'd like to think anyone in that changing room or anyone at Cricket Australia or outside - if anyone has a problem with anyone, we're about being honest with each other."

India batsman Rohit Sharma insisted he had no regrets over the shot he played for what could prove to be a key dismissal in the fourth Test against Australia. 

The tourists closed day two on 62-2 in reply to Australia's 369 all out at the Gabba. 

Opener Rohit had moved to 44 before he tried to attack Nathan Lyon (1-10) and was caught out by a running Mitchell Starc. 

India only need a draw to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy but their task was made more difficult by losing Rohit, who twice made starts - scoring 26 and 52 – without pressing on during the draw in Sydney. 

"I was actually trying to pierce the long-on and that deep square-leg fielder, but it didn't connect the way I would have loved to," said the 33-year-old. 

"Pretty simple. It was something I won't regret. It is something I like to do.  

"I like to put the pressure on the bowler once I am in, and that is my role in the team. To make sure I keep putting that pressure on the bowlers because we have seen throughout the series how run-scoring has been difficult for both the teams. 

"Someone needs to put his hand up and think about how we can put the pressure back on the bowlers and while doing that there are chances you will make a mistake. 

"You should be ready to accept that. I am ready to accept that because it was a plan. It was something that we always planned."

Rohit added: "I actually have no regrets playing that shot. It is something I like to do.  

"Just that Nathan Lyon - we all know he is a smart bowler - bowled into me, which made it difficult for me to get some elevation. 

"It is not coming out of nowhere. It is a shot that I play. And I have played it very well in the past. It is something that I really back myself to do all the time. That is the kind of role I play in this team.  

"Yes, when it looks like that, it looks bad, but that is something I don't think too much into." 

Sunil Gavaskar was among the former players to criticise the shot selection from Rohit, who is opening the batting in Test cricket for the first time away from home during this series. 

"I have opened for India in limited overs for a long time and it is time for me to test myself in this longer format as well," added Rohit. 

"The team has shown confidence in my ability at the top. Just that I have to do what the team expects me to do.  

"Not to worry about what happens anywhere else and what people talk about me. The team expects me to play a certain role at the top of the order, and I will try to do that as much as I can." 

Only 54.2 overs were bowled due to rain on day two. Cheteshwar Pujara (8) and Ajinkya Rahane (2) were unbeaten when stumps were called, with India 307 runs adrift.

Australia were left frustrated as day two of the fourth Test against India was cut short after rain in Brisbane.

Only 54.2 overs were bowled at the Gabba on Saturday as India reached 62-2 in response to Australia's first-innings 369.

Heavy rain delayed the start of the final session before a wet outfield meant play was abandoned.

Tim Paine scored a half-century for Australia as T Natarajan (3-78), Washington Sundar (3-89) and Shardul Thakur (3-94) took three wickets each for India.

Rohit Sharma (44) wasted his start as he tried to attack Nathan Lyon (1-10) after Pat Cummins (1-22) had Shubman Gill (7) caught at second slip by Steve Smith.

Cheteshwar Pujara (8) and Ajinkya Rahane (2) were unbeaten when stumps were called, with India 307 runs adrift in the final Test of a series that is locked at 1-1.

Injury-hit India continued to fight and they only need a draw to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

Australia, though, will also lament some of their batting that could have put India under more pressure.

Starts squandered as tail wags for Australia

Marnus Labuschagne made a century on Friday, but four other batsmen made more than 36 but failed to go on for Australia.

Paine (50) and Cameron Green (47) joined that group on day two as they squandered promising starts, with Lyon (24) – playing his 100th Test – and Mitchell Starc (20 not out) lifting Australia beyond 350.

Reckless Rohit hurts India

Like many in the Australia line-up, Rohit wasted another opportunity to put together a big score in Brisbane.

He looked in control before attempting to take on Lyon one too many times, and a running Starc took a good catch. The 33-year-old is one of India's more experienced players and his dismissal left the tourists at 60-2. It comes after he made scores of 26 and 52 in Sydney.

Australia and India will both make changes for the winner-takes-all-showdown in Brisbane, where a highly eventful series comes to a conclusion with the fourth Test.

The two nations are tied at 1-1 heading into the final game after India, despite being beset by injury issues, successfully batted out the final day to secure a hard-earned draw at the Sydney Cricket Ground. 

There has been little time for rest and recovery for those involved, while much of the media attention in the aftermath has surrounded the on-field behaviour of Australia's current captain, Tim Paine, and the man he replaced in the role, Steve Smith. 

Paine was fined for dissent after questioning an umpiring decision during the third Test, though it was his verbal sparring with Ravichandran Ashwin on the final day – plus a plethora of dropped catches behind the stumps – that put him in the spotlight. 

Now, though, the skipper and his side must focus on trying to secure a victory at the Gabba – a venue that holds good memories for Australia but less so India, who have failed to triumph there in six previous visits. 

The hosts will again have a new opening partnership on duty too, with Will Pucovski ruled out due to a shoulder injury after a promising Test debut. Marcus Harris will take his place at the top of the order. 

Australia are set to go with an unchanged attack despite the short turnaround - the previous game finished on Monday - meaning off-spinner Nathan Lyon will play in his 100th Test. 

India, meanwhile, have not given anything away in terms of team selection, though at least two changes will be needed to replace injured duo Ravindra Jadeja, who has had surgery on a dislocated thumb, and Hanuma Vihari.

Jasprit Bumrah is also reportedly a major doubt, potentially leaving the tourists without their leading paceman for the decider. 

"If he can play, he will play," India batting coach Vikram Rathour said of Bumrah on the eve of the game. "The injuries are still being monitored. Our medical staff is working with all the players.” 

It has been a busy trip for India's medical staff, that is for sure. Still, whoever takes the field for India will know a draw will be enough to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. 

 

LYON REACHES SPECIAL LANDMARK

Lyon will become the 13th Australian to reach a century of Tests, while he is only four away from reaching 400 wickets in the format.

"I look at the 12 other guys who have played over 100 Test matches for Australia, and they're pure legends in my eyes, not just for Cricket Australia but all around the world," he said ahead of the personal landmark. 

"I'm going to pinch myself each and every day to see my name amongst those players and be the 13th player to do so. It's pretty amazing. I've tried in the past not to look too far ahead, but I'm pretty excited about this one."

His career haul includes dismissing Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane 10 times apiece, making the India duo the batsmen he has dismissed the most in Tests.

PATCHED-UP INDIA CAN MAKE HISTORY

If India can record a victory and end Australia's 31-Test unbeaten run at the Gabba, they will secure back-to-back Test series triumphs on Australian soil for the first time.

It will be an even more impressive achievement when taking into consideration the absences. Captain Virat Kohli returned home after the first Test, while Mohammed Shami also only played the once.  Ishant Sharma, meanwhile, has not featured at all. Now, with Vihari and Jadeja sidelined, there will be a new-look middle order.

Wicketkeepers Rishabh Pant and Wriddhiman Saha could both feature; the former had his issues with the gloves in Sydney but made a counter-attacking 97 in the final innings that helped save the Test.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Australia are undefeated in their last 31 Tests in Brisbane (W24, D7). Their last defeat in such a fixture at the venue came in November 1988.
- A win for Australia in this match would secure three consecutive Test series victories - the last time they achieved such a feat was from November 2015 to February 2016.
- Pat Cummins has a bowling strike rate of 36.4 in Tests in Brisbane, the best of any player to record 500 deliveries there. His best Test innings figures came at the ground, as he claimed 6-23 against Sri Lanka in January 2019.
- Pujara has been removed four times (in six innings) by Cummins during this series, the most instances by any bowler against a batsman; scoring just 42 in response.
- Australia batsmen have been dismissed lbw on 11 occasions in the three previous Tests; India have only been out in that manner three times. All five lbw decisions at the SCG were against the hosts.

India held firm to deny Australia and secure an incredible draw in the third Test in Sydney on Monday.

Australia looked in position to take a 2-1 series lead, needing eight wickets on the final day at the SCG, but were left frustrated by a stubborn India batting line-up and costly dropped catches.

Rishabh Pant (97), Cheteshwar Pujara (77), Hanuma Vihari (23 off 161 balls) and Ravichandran Ashwin (39 off 128 balls) helped ensure India were level heading into the final Test in Brisbane starting on Friday.

The SCG pitch played few tricks on day five, and Pant even had India dreaming of an amazing win, the tourists eventually finishing at 334-5, 73 runs adrift of a victory they stopped chasing after Vihari hurt his hamstring.

Josh Hazlewood (2-39) and Nathan Lyon (2-114) made breakthroughs, but Australia were unable to do enough in a Test they looked destined to win as Tim Paine dropped three catches.

Australia landed an early blow as Lyon had Ajinkya Rahane (4) caught at short leg by Matthew Wade.

But Pant – who suffered an elbow injury on Saturday – was put down twice by Paine, on three and 56, off Lyon, and he counter-attacked superbly to put the pressure on the off-spinner.

Pujara brought up 6,000 Test runs, the 11th Indian to achieve the feat as he continued to frustrate Australia.

Pant looked capable of leading India to a shock victory before falling just short of a third Test century, caught by Pat Cummins at gully after trying to attack Lyon again.

The second new ball brought a key wicket for Australia as Hazlewood produced a wonderful delivery to bowl Pujara.

 

A pair of reviews were unable to get Ashwin, who was dropped on 15, a diving Sean Abbott – on for the injured Will Pucovski (shoulder) – unable to hold onto a tough chance.

Vihari and Ashwin, showing no intent to score, remained stoic and defended well against an increasingly desperate Australia.

Paine dropped another chance after Vihari edged a Mitchell Starc (0-66) delivery and it proved to be the final opportunity as India held on for a draw.

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